May 8, 2013  |  Adjournment

Rail: Ballan service

 I  have an issue to raise  with the Minister for Public Transport,  and the  action I seek is for the minister to address  issues associated with Ballan travellers on V/Line services.  In particular I relate an issue which was brought to my attention  last week  involving a number of school students from  Ballan who often use V/Line services to get home, particularly if they have attended  an after-school activity, and the experience of one of these students in particular was brought to my attention.

I was contacted last week by the mother of a 15-year-old girl who attends school in Ballarat. The mother  happens  to work in Melbourne, so the child necessarily uses  public  transport to get to  and  from  school.  However,  last  week  the 15-year-old went  to Ballarat station  after an after-school activity and wanted to catch the 5.15 p.m.

V/Line service to Ballan, which happens to be a coach service rather than a rail service. I am  advised that the student arrived at the station in plenty of time for the 5.15 service. She purchased her ticket, and only at the time of actually boarding the coach were she and  other travellers advised that the coach service did not have room for all of the prospective travellers  who had purchased their tickets.

The driver then advised the travellers that those  travelling  all  the  way  to Melbourne would get priority. They could get on the bus,  and there was a bit of room left  so those travelling to Bacchus Marsh were able to get on the bus. But even though they  were school students, those travelling to Ballan were all told they had to wait  behind for the next service, which would be somewhere around 6 o’clock, when it was already dark.

This mother obviously was very  concerned  when  her  daughter rang and said, ‘I can’t catch the service. They’ve told  me there’s  no room’. The mother was able to  organise an alternative travel option  with a friend who  she  knew to be in Ballarat rather  than  having her daughter  wait  on the station  platform after dark, where even though there have been promises  from this government there are no protective services officers at the moment.

However, clearly this  is a matter of  concern, and I hope the  minister will be able to take action and make  changes so that there is a rail service instead of a coach, or at  least  that there is plenty of room for  all  of the prospective travellers. But if there is not, this issue of prioritising according to whether you  are  going  to Melbourne  and  treating Ballan  travellers  as second-class citizens seems to me to be very strange.

I would have thought that in fact students would get greater priority  or at the very least  that  it would have  been  a first-in-best-dressed situation,  but I would like to have seen  all travellers get onto the  service or be advised when buying a ticket that  there might be a problem.  I hope the minister  will  take action. Of course there are many Ballan travellers who commute to Melbourne  who are already aggrieved that often they have to stand up the whole way.